Sunday, September 30, 2012

This Series is Deader to Me: "Hellraiser: Deader" (2005)

Director Rick Bota returns with another "Hellraiser" installment, coproduced by FX whiz Stan Winston, and written by Tim Day and pseudonym-wearing Benjamin Carr. Fine. The film makers go to Charles Band's old Romanian stomping grounds, finding the dingiest buildings and settings they could get to. Fine. Kari Wuhrer, the queen of straight-to-video sequels, is cast in the lead role, and must get down and gory in the flick. Fine. I'm just wondering why this thing stumbles along, treating its fanboy base (I'm sure other viewers have abandoned this series long ago) like a bunch of idiots.

Amy Klein (Kari Wuhrer) is a hardened reporter for a London newspaper. Editor Charles (Simon Kunz) shows Amy a video he received of a woman committing suicide, and then being resurrected by the mysterious Winter (Paul Rhys). Amy is assigned to find out just what the heck is going on, and travels to Bucharest, Romania, where the tape was mailed from.

Amy travels to the apartment on the return address, and discovers a pretty bad odor, courtesy of the decomposing body of Marla (Georgina Rylance), who has also committed suicide. She leaves behind a package with another video, and a mysterious little puzzle box. Amy watches Marla's last few moments alive, and then solves the puzzle box (is this the easiest puzzle box in the history of mankind?), releasing good old Pinhead (Doug Bradley, who keeps coming back for more). Amy keeps investigating Winter and his cult, identified as "Deaders," trying to understand the horrific things she keeps experiencing (much like this video's viewers).

I found enough in this eighty-eight minute film to keep it from being a one-star slash job. Kari Wuhrer has never been able to find a huge breakout role to deliver her from this kind of nonsense, but she obviously gives each project her most. She is believable here, and does a great job playing this flawed reporter. It helps that her onscreen nudity streak continues as well, since she is one sexy actress who I have crushed on since the old MTV series "Remote Control." Bucharest looks like hell but in a good way. The settings are cold and crumbly. I don't know who decided what, but steering the majority of the special effects into gory makeup, and keeping bad computer generated hoo-ha to a minimum makes for one bloody set piece after another, without too many giggles interrupting.

The screenplay, however, is the most confused of the series (and that is saying a lot). Pinhead is in this a little more that other entries, and Bradley has such great screen presence, but everything that comes out of his mouth is hogwash. He may be in competition with Winter, who may have descended from the man who originally built the puzzle box (waaay back in part four), but I honestly had no clue what the h-e-double hockey sticks was going on here. Bota can stage a jump scare with the best of them, but watch for his unnecessary padding, where he reminds you of plot points that happened mere MINUTES before! The same flaw that bothered me in "Hellraiser: Hellseeker" returns here. We watch Amy Klein (whose name is repeated about three dozen times in the film) snap awake from...what? A dream, nightmare, vision, memory, hallucination, nifty optical effect...what? Even the ending is convoluted and unsatisfying, as a secondary character's motivations are suddenly thrown into reverse...or are they?

"Hellraiser: Deader" is par for the straight-to-video series, and you can sense the end approaching- which occurred with the next, and last, film- "Hellraiser: Hellworld." Don't fret, Clive Barker is working on a reboot due out soon. (* *) out of five stars.